How Best Buy Survived the Great Retail Meltdown

Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly says employee empowerment is crucial to running a business.

The four principles of good leadership that helped save the nation’s last remaining CE chain

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Things were a lot different for Best Buy a decade ago.

At the time, the nation’s No. 1 electronics chain and Top 5 appliance retailer was racked by a CEO scandal, a proxy fight between the company’s founder and its board, and was losing sales, customers and market share by the bucketful to Amazon and a host of other online interlopers.

Indeed, industry observers and Wall Street investors had all but written off the Minneapolis-based business, pointing to its costly and unproductive real estate, its uncompetitive pricing, and its poorly functioning e-commerce operation. It was just a matter of time, they conjectured, before Best Buy would follow Highland, Circuit City, Silo and Ward’s into oblivion.

Enter new CEO Hubert Joly, a dapper turnaround specialist from France who cut costs, improved efficiencies, rebuilt the backend, overhauled the web business, and shared the real estate burden with vendors through branded in-store shops.

Joly handed off the retailer’s day-to-day reins in 2019 and parted company last year, leaving Best Buy a stronger, more viable, and in many ways a wholly reborn business that’s standing its ground against competitors.

In a recent online chat with the Harvard Business Review, Hubert shared four principles of sound leadership — all related to employee empowerment — that contributed to Best Buy’s dramatic turnaround. In a nutshell, those tenets are:

  1. The best candidate for a leadership position is not necessarily the most experienced one.
  2. Employees, rather than shareholders or even customers, should be your top concern. Listen to them and heed their advice.
  3. Inspire your employees to go the extra mile.
  4. Admit you don’t have all the answers and see No. 2.

You can watch the full discussion here on LinkedIn.